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"Unlearn Fear + Hate" Artists Host Community Coloring Parties with Lexington Public Library

Co-creators of the social justice artwork “Unlearn Fear and Hate” hosted their first coloring party in conjunction with the Lexington Public Library .

As WEKU’s Cheri Lawson reports , dozens of people from all walks of life showed up for the first in a series of six parties 

It’s a Monday evening and  4 –year-old Archer Helton is sifting through a box of colored pencils .

He’s with his sister Scarlet ,his mom Emily and dozens of others at the Central Library for a coloring party .

The “Unlearn Fear and Hate” art project was launched in 2016 by artists Kremena Todorova and Kurt Gohde, professors at Transylvania University. The coloring parties are a chance for people to contribute to the  project’s finale . The art is intended to help build community and promote civic dialogue. Emily Helton believes in the project.

“ We participated in another activity they did where we spray painted “Unlearn Fear and Hate” in our neighborhood and it was just a really powerful thing .”

On this night kids and adults nibble on cookies and sip hot chocolate sitting at large round tables chatting and hand- coloring designs of medicinal plants native to Kentucky. Alberto and Amy Carrillo brought their 2 young daughters .  

“This is my family. That’s why it means so much to be here because I’m the mom of 2 daughters. And of course they have some real diversity in their lives with a Hispanic father. They need to know about a sense of community and they should know that  different is ok. “

The  artwork “Unlearn Fear and Hate” is based on words by former Kentucky Poet Laureate Frank X. Walker. It began at the Lexington Public Library with the installation of a large “halo” sculpture at the Village Branch . The four-foot wide sculpture contained the phrase, “Unlearn Fear + Hate”. Co-Creator Kurt Gohde says the sculptures have become a backdrop for photographs  and  the halo surrounds the face in the picture.

“Then a photograph taken of a person becomes part of a visual petition. That way putting a face to signing a petition says you’re committing to unlearning fear and hate”

Initially Professors Todorova and Gohde produced the art because of increased visibility of acts of racial violence around the country .  Todorova hopes it inspires people to see each other as fully human. She says it’s been amazing working with people of different ages and religious back grounds with the “Unlearn Fear and Hate” artwork.

““Because they believe that it’s really important to spread this message and to get people to realize that we should be less fearful and more  accepting . And one way towards that is through making art together.”

The two artists have given numerous presentations  at churches, schools, libraries, and even other places around country. They’ve used several mediums to produce art with the words “Unlearn Fear and Hate” including 60 foot long stencils and little lapel buttons. The coloring party was the first time Jennifer Haynes heard about this artwork.

”It came across my facebook feed.So I thought I’d come out and color and learn more about it.”

Many   who came to  color , like Saunda Coleman are familiar with the social justice art .  She says the coloring is therapeutic but getting everyone to “Unlearn Fear and Hate”……

“It’s  gonna  take some doing, honestly, to do exactly that. Because we’re living in crazy kind of times.  It’s like the 1960’s on steroids.”

One of the first to arrive at the party was Michael Wardle.

”I guess it’s just doing what little I can do, as opposed to doing nothing.”

Supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and The Knight Foundation   all of the hand-colored pages will become part of an exhibition at the Pam Miller Downtown Arts Center at  the end of this year

The next coloring party will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 12, at the Northside Branch

Cheri is a broadcast producer, anchor, reporter, announcer and talk show host with over 25 years of experience. For three years, she was the local host of Morning Edition on WMUB-FM at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Cheri produced and hosted local talk shows and news stories for the station for nine years. Prior to that, she produced and co-hosted a local talk show on WVXU, Cincinnati for nearly 15 years. Cheri has won numerous awards from the Public Radio News Directors Association, the Ohio and Kentucky Associated Press, and both the Cincinnati and Ohio chapters of the Society for Professional Journalists.
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